Scientists clarify burning smell is not because of haze, while Indonesian province Riau declares emergency

Over the past week, there has been a familiar burning smell in the air, but scientists have clarified that it is unlikely to be the haze. Scientists told local media that the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) has been in the low moderate range over the past two weeks. Today (18 Mar), the 24-hours PSI reading is well within the moderate range at 55 to 59.

Senior research scientist Dr Santo Salinas told the media:

When haze from wildfires in neighbouring islands starts affecting Singapore, the PSI moves to the high levels of the moderate range, reaching unhealthy levels on some occasions. The smell could be due to local burning. So far, the hot spots are very few in Malaysia and Riau, Indonesia.

What exactly is local burning? It could be this.

fire stomp


Or even this.



Who knows?



We don’t either.

Unusually warm weather

While scientists have said that the burning smell is not from haze, What we do know is that Singapore has been experiencing unusually hot weather. Temperatures are expected to reach 36 degrees in the second half of March, matching the warmest temperature recorded back in 1998. Singapore reached 36 degrees on 26 March 1998.

The National Environment Agency said:

The warmer conditions that we are experiencing are due to the continuing influence of the El Nino and the presence of a dry and warm air mass over the region. The occurrence of the equinox is another contributing factor to the warm temperatures during this time of the year.

The weather is so unusual that a false message even made it war around text messaging and social media, claiming that the soaring temperatures could result in a possible heatwave and cause dehydration and sunstroke.



Drier weather for the whole region

Higher temperature around the region would also mean Indonesia too will experience drier than normal weather in several fire and haze-prone regions during March and April, said their state weather agency BMKG. Just last week, the Indonesian province of Riau declared an emergency as forest fires spread. The rising temperature and drier weather can make fires harder to put out.

No haze, yet

Despite the drier weather and burning smells, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) said that it is unlikely that the haze has returned — not yet at least.

So while scientists say that the burning smell is not haze, no one really knows what it is either. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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Featured image via Marcellie
With reference to The Straits Times,, NEA